Having introduced a new education policy during his tenure as Minister for Education, Govinda Raj Joshi helped spur the growth of private sector education providers and transform the face of Nepal's education system. As a result, in the last 22 years, Nepal has seen many ups and downs in the field of education. Numerous education institutions, including medical colleges, engineering colleges, private schools and universities have opened to make Nepal's a competitive and quality education destination. Joshi, who is now on a bed–rest due to some serious health ailments, gave some time to speak to New Spotlight after the publication of the results of the School Leaving Certificate Exams 2071.Excerpts:
What is your view about the current education policy?
I introduced the new education policy 22 years ago with the help of the document prepared by Kedar Bhakta Mathema, Dr. Ishwori Prasad Upadhaya, Dr. Suresh Raj Sharma and Dr. Tirtha Khaniya to make Nepal's education system competitive and qualitative. Although it received several setbacks due to the failure of the management, the policy introduced by us is still valid and relevant. The policy was introduced to fulfill the need of that time.
What changes did you see over the decades?
When the policy was implemented, Tribhuvan University was only one university to offer medical courses for 20 students and there were a few students in the engineering college and a large number of Nepalese students were compelled to go to foreign lands to continue their studies.
What is the reason behind the failure of the system at present?
The failure of education system is a result of several things: to conduct quality education in a country, management of education system should not depend upon foreign dollars. In addition, Tribhuvan University also does not have the required budget to provide quality education in the country. After the failure of the education system from over a decade ago, the ministry of education has not pondered over how to make the education system function well in Nepal or introduce a new system. No education minister has the capacity to make a new policy for the education in our country as the same policy has been used by terminating some old policies. At our time, we had brought the policy with the participation of the local community in education, and introduced the concept of multiple universities.
Why did so many fail in this year's SLC?
It is the failure of the school management. Decades ago, the government could not offer quality education in different districts. Now when 80% students passed from private schools, there is no reason why the sorry results continue in the public schools.
How about the education policy?
The new education policy talks about the multi-university concept and participation of private sector. With an aim to decentralize the education system and provide opportunities for the people living outside a place to study closer to their home, multi-university concept has worked well. After the announcement of this policy, medical colleges are running now in places like Nepalgunj, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Janakpur and Dharan. Similarly, there are engineering colleges in different parts of the country. This is good news. Earlier, the Institute of Medicine under the Tribhuwan University used to provide 20 seats for MBBS and similar number of seats in the Engineering College. Now the situation has changed -- there are numbers of medical colleges and engineering colleges producing large numbers of doctors and engineers. I am not saying that everything is right. There are certain drawbacks also. However, the negative impacts are very nominal compared to positive sides of the education plan.
Is it the failure of Nepal's education system?
The current SLC results cannot be the basis to judge the education policy. Of course, almost 56 percent of students failed and over 80 percent passed from private schools. Now the question is if the curriculum and questionnaires are fine with the students of private schools, why are the same things are too hard to attempt for government schools? I wonder why so much low percentage of results coming from the public schools? Without analyzing this, one cannot say this is the failure of education policy.
Then why is the demand is growing?
There is always a blame game going on. Nobody sees how Nepalese students studied under the current courses if the global market. Doctors, engineers and other people who studied in Nepal are making good presence in the international sector. Nepalese are even competing in countries like the United States of America and England. Had our education policy been bad, the universities in Nepal would not have produced such competitive students.
What is the weakness then?
Our policy is right but what is weak in our system is the management. Our education act has clearly defined the role of various persons involved in the schools system. For instance, there are resource persons in each district, District Education Officers and supervisors to evaluate the performance of the education system. No one is there now. Of course, investment in the education sector has drastically increased over the years but these resources are not properly utilized. It is unfortunate that there is no institution even to see whether the resources are used properly or not? The supply of books is inadequate and insufficient.
How do you see the curriculum?
During our tenure, Janak Education Materials Center printed all the books and delivered these in time. Even the center was in profit. However, the center is now on the verge of ruin as it has to face huge deficit annually. It is in the process of bankruptcy. There is a weakness in its management from the government side. The government is unable to handle things properly. There is nothing wrong with policy matters.
How do you see the monitoring?
Currently, whether it is in the schools or colleges, there is no institution to monitor the performance of the schools. We left the schools to communities and district education offices which are politicized. Teachers are appointed on the basis of political ideology. Teachers are paid salaries without bothering to find out whether they are teaching or not. If a teacher gets membership of particular political parties, he or she need not teach in classroom as they are protected by political parties. Schools are totally politicized and no one has the power to depoliticize education. The government is allocating money to build the classrooms and science laboratories. However, no one makes efforts to supervise them.
What do you suggest for quality education?
The government cannot improve the quality of education overnight but what it can do is to establish one school in each district for trial. If one public school produces good results, it will build pressure on other schools. Thus, quality of education in the district level will gradually improve. Given the present resources, we can build one school each in 240 constituencies within a year. This way we can improve the overall education.
What is the reason behind such a setback in the education sector?
As about 43 percent students passed this year, the time has come to see the differences between quality of curriculum and level of students. Whether there is a match between them or there is mismatch, we have to see it. Whether the books are as per the curriculum or not? Whether the questions are as per the textbooks or not? The questions are based on the text books but they might be too standard for students. One cannot evaluate the education system on the basis of a few examinations. I am wondering why our education experts are so much concerned about policy then.